Hakluyt Society Editorial Workshop, London, Friday 4 May 2018

The Hakluyt Society invites anyone interested in editing primary source texts for publication for its first *free* editorial workshop.

The first one-day Hakluyt Society Editorial Workshop will take place on Friday 4 May at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London. There will be a range of contributions from scholars who are or have been involved with Hakluyt Society published volumes, including substantial talks from Professor Michael Brennan, Dr Angela Byrne and Professor Joyce Lorimer.

 The aims of the workshop are to encourage interest in the academic editing of texts for publication and to offer practical support and advice to those engaged on editing projects. While the emphasis will be on the Society’s approach to text editing, the workshop will be of value to anyone involved with or contemplating such work. If you think you might be interested, this would be a good ‘taster’ opportunity. There is no charge and lunch will be provided.

 Members of the Society have already been circulated and there are some places left to which anyone interested would be welcome. Please simply tell me (jim.bennett@mhs.ox.ac.uk) that you would like to come and I will send you the details, provided we still have places.

 Jim Bennett

President, The Hakluyt Society

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Hakluyt Society Research Funding 2018

For the third year in succession, the Hakluyt Society in pleased to announce its annual round of Research Funding. In furtherance of the principal objects of the Hakluyt Society, to promote the study of historical exploration, travel, and worldwide cultural encounter, the Society operates two schemes of research funding. These are:

  • The Hakluyt Society Research Grant, up to six of which will be available per calendar year, with a maximum allocation of £1500 each.
  • The Hakluyt Society Short-Term Fellowship, two of which will be available per calendar year. The Fellowship may be held for a maximum of four months, with a maximum allowance of £1650 per month. 

These funding opportunities are open to anyone whose research interests meet with and promote the objects of the Hakluyt Society. All applicants must be members of the Hakluyt Society, and applications must be received by 31 January 2018.

Please ensure that you have read the guidelines below before completing the Application Form.


 

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Guidelines

1. Hakluyt Society funding is given to support and extend the stated aims of the Society. The primary aim of the Society is ‘to advance knowledge and education by the publication of scholarly editions of primary records of voyages, travels and other geographical material’. In addition, the Society also undertakes and supports activities supplementary to its primary role as a publisher of scholarly texts: ‘by organizing and participating in meetings, symposia and conferences which contribute to an increased awareness of geographical exploration and cultural encounter’. Applicants should state clearly in their application how the proposed project meets the aims of the Society

2. The applicant must be a member of the Hakluyt Society at the time of application. (For further information about membership and the activities of the Hakluyt Society, please visit www.hakluyt.com).

3. In completing the form, applicants should make clear which one of the two funding sources is being applied for. It is not possible to apply for both of the funding sources in the same year. In the event of successful application, further financial support from the Society will not normally be considered within two years.

4. The Abstract should be written in language suitable for a non-academic audience and outline the importance and timeliness of the work proposed and its fit to the work of the Society. The section Description of the Research, should place the nature of the research proposed in relation to the relevant scholarly literature and identify the originality and significance of the work proposed.

5. Where relevant, the library/archive or other repository to be visited should be identified, as should the expected time frame in which the research will be undertaken. The application should detail the number of working days that will be spent at the library/archive/repository in question.

6. The Budget must give projected costs in as much detail as possible, and should justify the levels of expenditure proposed.

7. Plans for communication of the research should be fully explained. These should also be realistic and precisely stated.

8. Applicants should note that the funding is intended to cover the costs associated with the conduct of research (including reasonable travel and subsistence expenses), and is not for an applicant’s ongoing maintenance expenses during the period of research. Maintenance can be paid, however, for periods when the research requires the applicant to live away from home. Please note that Hakluyt Society research funding is for research with identifiable publication plans only and may not be used simply for dissertation research or write-up. Funding will not be given for computer hardware or software costs. If applicants are in any doubt over allowable costs, they are advised to contact the Society.

9. Successful applicants are required to acknowledge the support of the Hakluyt Society in any resultant Hakluyt Society publication, other research publication or in events of outreach and dissemination.

10. The maximum sum available for a Hakluyt Society Research Grant (HSRG) is £1500. Normally, there will be up to six Hakluyt Society Research Grants available in any one research funding year (April to March). Normally, there will be two Hakluyt Society Short-Term Fellowships available in any funding year. The Hakluyt Society Short-Term Fellowship (HSSTF) may be held for a maximum of four calendar months. The maximum sum available for the Hakluyt Society Short-Term Fellowship will be £1650 per calendar month (i.e., the maximum sum that may be sought is £6600). Normally, there will be two Hakluyt Society Short-Term Fellowship available in any one funding year.

Normally, in the event of successful application, the sum awarded will be paid directly to the named applicant. It is the applicant’s responsibility to provide the Society with full details of the bank account into which the award should be paid. Upon completion of the project for which an award has been made, the applicant is expected to provide the Society with a summary of the expenditure, with itemized receipts for the same, a brief report of the work undertaken and a blog post on the work or some aspect of it, suitable for publication on the Hakluyt Society Blog. The Society (at office@hakluyt.com) would like to receive the summary of expenditure, report and blog post as soon as possible after the research is completed, but requires them no later than one month after the research funding year, i.e. by 30 April 2019.

11. Successful candidates will receive notification of the outcome of their application. Due to the volume of applications, please note that the Society is unable to enter into correspondence on individual unsuccessful applications. The Society reserves the right to invite selected unsuccessful candidates to develop their proposals further to reapply in subsequent rounds, and may provide additional feedback in such cases.


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Trading Companies and Travel Literature: Looking back on #Hakluyt17

Trading Companies and Travel Literature are hot. Joining these two foci of historical and literary analysis works even better. This is the short conclusion from the overwhelming success of the Hakluyt Society Symposium, the first of its kind, held at Chatham Historic Dockyards on 11-12 September 2017. Entitled Trading Companies and Travel Literature, this international event, sponsored by the Hakluyt Society and organised in collaboration with PEIC of the University of Kent, brought together more than fifty historians, literary scholars, and members of the public for two days of rich interdisciplinary exchange. In this blog, one of the symposium’s organisers, Guido van Meersbergen (University of Warwick) looks back on the symposium and its outcomes.


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#Hakluyt17

One month after the Hakluyt Society Symposium in Chatham, I look back on the event with great pleasure and satisfaction. Run by Edmond Smith (PEIC), Aske Brock (PEIC), and myself, and financed by a generous award from the Hakluyt Society’s Harry & Grace Smith Fund, the symposium was a resounding success. This was due not only to the stunning environment of the Historic Dockyard in Chatham – and particularly the magnificent Royal Dockyard Church – which provided #Hakluyt17 with the best possible historical and maritime framing; but above all to the consistently high academic quality of papers presented and collegial and constructive discussion held over the course of two stimulating days.

As always in these matters, the people mattered most. In addition to sizeable delegations from both the Hakluyt Society and the University of Kent, the symposium welcomed a large number of attendees from institutions all over the UK as well as places further afield, including the US, India, Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, and Ireland. All together, Trading Companies and Travel Literature attracted over fifty delegates, some twenty of whom students and Early Career Researchers. Participation of the latter group was generously supported by financial support from the Hakluyt Society and the Society for Renaissance Studies. The Hakluyt Society also awarded a total of six Bursaries covering travel expenses for early career speakers.

These circumstances combined to ensure that even a Chatham-wide power outage on 12 September, which caused some degree of confusion on Day 2 of the symposium, did little to disrupt the event’s good humoured collegiality.

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Hakluyt Society Symposium early career delegates outside the Royal Dockyard Church.
For a pictorial impression of the event, Hakluyt Society Symposium 2017 in 100 Images, check out our Facebook page.

Trading Companies and Travel Literature

Aimed at examining travel literature and trading companies within the same framework of analysis, the symposium’s seven panels focused on critical issues ranges from the production and uses of travel literature, the way travel writing was employed to promote trading companies and colonial or imperial projects, to approaches to non-European voices and the materiality of information. Questions addressed included:

  • How did Companies and non-corporate groups (private merchants, missionaries, diplomats, Crown-sponsored colonial enterprises) gather, collect, protect, promote and utilise travel literature?
  • In what ways do the manuscript and printed material created by companies serve as lenses through which to understand the early modern ‘globalising’ world, and how do they obscure, distort, or limit this understanding?
  • How did ideas originating in manuscript form within Company administrations come to circulate in print and what were its consequences for the circulation of ideas and images about the world within Europe and beyond?
  • How did travel literature emerging outside the Companies shape and affect Company policies?
  • What were the roles of non-European voices and agency in (the production of) Company sources and travel literature?
  • What were the implications of secrecy, forgery and fraudulent material for corporate and non-corporate colonial operations?
  • How did the materiality of information affect its message and uses?
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Professor Jyotsna Singh (Michigan State University) presenting the keynote address

On the evening of day 1, the keynote address was delivered by Professor Jyotsna Singh (Michigan State University), whose work on the Global Renaissance has dealt extensively with early modern travel writing and East India Company accounts. Her stimulating lecture, chaired by Hakluyt Society President, Professor Jim Bennett, was entitled The East India Company and English Encounters with Islam in Mughal India.

The symposium also featured a Hakluyt Society Editorial Workshop, led by Professor Will Ryan and Dr Katie Parker, which offered attendees first-hand experience of the attractions and challenges of editing primary accounts to the standards required by the Society.

Outcomes

Rather than simply relishing the memory of a successful event, steps have already been taken to ensure a positive follow-up. Encouraged by the outcome of the Kent symposium – which met the Society’s principal aims of 1) increasing the public awareness of historical travel, exploration and worldwide cultural encounter; 2) generating exposure for the Society’s activities; and 3) stimulating interdisciplinary conversation, engaging younger scholars, and creating a bridge between academic and lay audiences – the Hakluyt Society is committed to establishing its symposia on a biannual footing.

First preparations for a 2019 Hakluyt Society Symposium to be held in Leiden are already underway, following an agreement of principle between the Society’s President, Jim Bennett, its Symposium Coordinator, Guido van Meersbergen, and Professor of Maritime History of Leiden University, Michiel van Groesen. One reason to particularly look forward to a 2019 symposium in Leiden would be the intended participation of the Linschoten-Vereeniging, our Dutch sister society.

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Hakluyt Society Symposium 2017 organisers (from left to right), Guido van Meersbergen, Edmond Smith, and Aske Brock.

Output

However, the most tangible future output of the Hakluyt Society Symposium will be a collection of essays edited by the symposium organisers and including chapters from a selection of speakers. This book will present the first focused investigation of the multifaceted relationships between European trading companies and the ways in which they collected, curated, protected, and utilised material relating to travel and exploration across the early modern world. Edmond, Aske, and I intend for this edited collection, on which we will work over the next year or two together with our excellent speakers, to appear as a volume in the Hakluyt Society Extra Series.

Finally, we will produce a conference report for the Society for Renaissance Studies (SRS), which generously supported the symposium with a conference grant. This report is due to appear in the Bulletin of the Society for Renaissance Studies.

Dr Guido van Meersbergen is a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow at the University of Warwick, where he is a member of the Global History and Culture Centre. Since 2013 he has been a Council Member of the Hakluyt Society, and he is currently acting as the Society’s social media manager and Symposium Coordinator. Guido’s research and teaching focuses on early modern global history, particularly cross-cultural diplomacy, ethnographic discourse, and the Dutch and English East India Companies in South Asia. Guido received his PhD from University College London (UCL) and has previously held the Max Weber Fellowship at the European University Institute (EUI).


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Hakluyt Society Essay Prize 2018 (deadline 30 November 2017)

The Hakluyt Society is pleased to announce the 2018 edition of the

Hakluyt Society Essay Prize

For the fourth year in succession, the Hakluyt Society awards its annual Essay Prize of £750. The prize will be presented, if possible, at the Society’s Annual General Meeting in London in June 2018, and winners will be invited to present their research at the Hakluyt Society Symposium in 2019. Winners will also receive a one-year membership of the Hakluyt Society. The Society hopes that the winning essay will be published, either in the Society’s online journal or in a recognised academic journal.

Prize winners agree to acknowledge the receipt of their award in any future publication of the Prize essay. In addition, they will be expected to contribute to the Society’s public dissemination as appropriate. This may include, but is not limited to, presenting a paper at the Hakluyt Society Symposium and contributing to the Hakluyt Society blog. Previous winners were Owain Lawson (2015), Nailya Shamgunova (2016), and Annemarie Mclaren (2017). You can read about their winning essays herehere and here.


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Eligibility criteria

The competition is open to any registered graduate student at a higher education institution (a university or equivalent) or to anyone who has been awarded a (post-)graduate degree in the past three years. Proof of student status or of the date of a degree must accompany any submission. Allowance can be made for parental leave.

Scope and subject matter

Before considering the submission of an essay, entrants should visit the Hakluyt Society’s website to make themselves aware of the objectives of the Society and the scope and nature of its publications. Essays should be based on original research in any discipline in the humanities or social sciences, and on an aspect of the history of travel, exploration and cultural encounter or their effects, in the tradition of the work of the Society.

Essays should be in English (except for such citations in languages other than English as may appear in footnotes or endnotes) and between 6,000 and 8,000 words in length (including notes, excluding bibliography). Illustrations, diagrams and tables essential to the text fall outside the word count. Submissions should be unpublished, and not currently in press, in production or under review elsewhere.

Submission procedures and deadline

Essays should be submitted as email attachments in Word (.doc) format to the Administrator of the Hakluyt Society, at office@hakluyt.com by 30 November 2017. The entrant’s name, address (including preferred email address), institutional affiliation (if any, with date of admission), and degrees (if any, with dates of conferment) should appear within the body of the email, together with a note of the title of the submitted essay. The subject line of the email should include the words ‘HAKLUYT SOCIETY ESSAY PRIZE’ and the author’s name. By submitting an essay, an entrant certifies that it is the entrant’s own original work.

Selection procedure

The Judging Panel encourages innovative submissions that make an important contribution to knowledge, or a critical or methodological contribution to scholarship. The Panel and selected reviewers will pay attention to the analytical rigour, originality, wider significance, depth and scope of the work, as well as to style and presentation. The Panel comprises selected academic faculty from among the Hakluyt Society’s Council, including the Editorial Board of The Journal of the Hakluyt Society.

The Prize Committee reserves the right not to award a prize, if no submission is judged to be of sufficient merit. The Committee’s decision will be announced in April 2018.



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Programme: Hakluyt Society Symposium 2017 – Trading Companies and Travel Literature

The Hakluyt Society Symposium 2017 brings together travel literature and trading companies by exploring how the various early modern Companies collected, created, curated, protected and utilised material relating to travel and discovery around the world. Set in the historic environment of the University of Kent’s Medway campus, the Hakluyt Society Symposium 2017 will take place on 11-12 September 2017.

Registration is open until 1 September. 

Location: Royal Dockyard Church Lecture Theatre, Chatham, ME4 4TE. Please visit our conference website for directions.


11 September 2017

 09.30 – 09.40: Welcome and Introduction

 09.40 – 11.10: Session 1 – Production of Travel Literature

  • Dr Eva Johanna Holmberg (Queen Mary, London), ‘Passages Recollected by Memory’: Remembering the Levant Company in Seventeenth-Century Merchant Life Writing
  • Byapti Sur (Leiden University), Pandemonium in Pomp: A Dutch account of Festivals and Festivities in Seventeenth-Century Mughal India
  • Dr Liam Haydon (University of Kent), Merchants Making History

11.10 – 11.30: Coffee break

11.30 – 13.00: Session 2 – Uses of Travel Literature

  • Prof Michiel van Groesen (Leiden University), From Secrecy to Openness: Dierick Ruiters’ Manuscript Maps and the Birth of the Dutch Atlantic World 
  • Dr Adrien Delmas (l’Institut français d’Afrique du Sud, Paris), The Forgotten Function of Writing: Travel Literature, International law and the European Share of the World at the Turn of the Seventeenth Century
  • Dr Haig Smith (University of Liverpool), “Assemblies of their own Nations”: Perceptions of South Asian Religious Diversity in Seventeenth-Century English East India Company Correspondence

13.00 – 14.00: Lunch

14.00 – 15.15: Hakluyt Society Editorial Workshop

15.15 – 15.30: Coffee break

15.30 – 17.00: Session 3 – Promoting Trading Companies

  • Prof Anne Goldgar (King’s College London), Marketing Arctic Knowledge
  • Dr Stefan Halikowski Smith (Swansea University), Venice and the Danish East India Company: Reading Nicola Cima’s ‘Relatione Distinta delli Regni di Siam, China, Tunchino e Cocincina’ (c. 1707)
  • Giorgio Tosco (European University Institute), Travel Writing and the Promotion of Trans-Oceanic Trade in Tuscany and Genoa in the Seventeenth Century

18.00: Keynote Address

  • Prof Jyotsna Singh (Michigan State University), The East India Company and English Encounters with Islam in Mughal India

19.00: Reception

Conference Dinner


12 September 2017

9.00 – 10.30: Session 4 – Planning Empire through Travel Literature

  • John Carrigy (National University of Ireland, Galway), John Dee and Elizabethan Empire: Defining Empire within Contemporary Historiographical Culture
  • Marina Bezzi (University College London), Richard Hakluyt and Lancelot Voisin de la Popeliniere: Other-than-European Environments in European Travel Literature Collections
  • Alasdair Macfarlane (Durham University), Creating ‘New Caledonia’: Rumour, News and the Company of Scotland

10.30 – 10.50: Coffee break

10.50 – 12.20: Session 5 – Approaches to Non-European Voices

  • Prof Margaret Hunt (Uppsala University), Dervish Mehmed Edib’s Pilgrimage to Mecca: Gender and Spirituality in an Eighteenth-Century Islamic Travel Narrative 
  • Samuel Ellis (University of Leeds), Reading Early English East India Company Travel Narratives in the Himalayas: Difficulties, Limitations and Opportunities
  • Renu Elizabeth Abraham (University of Kent), Collectors of History: The Case of John William Wye and the English East India Company

12.20 – 13.20: Lunch

 13.20 – Session 6 – 14.50: Materiality of Information

  • Dr Djoeke van Netten (University of Amsterdam), Ships on Maps and Maps on Ships
  • Dr Souvik Mukherjee (Presidency University, Kolkata), “Unburying” Company History: Reconstructing European Company Narratives through Digital Archives
  • Frank Birkenholz (University of Groningen), Paper that Travels: The Materiality of the Dutch East India Company’s Travel Writing, Information Gathering and Knowledge Production

14.50 – 15.10: Coffee break

 15.10 – 16.40: Session 7 – Companies and Colonialism

  • Prof Nandini Das (University of Liverpool), Thomas Roe’s Companies
  • Dr Amrita Sen (Presidency University, Kolkata), Decoding Company Rule: Travel, Taxation and the Bengal Famine of 1770
  • Alison Bennett (University College London/British Museum), Exploration, Treaty-Making and Trade: Sources of the Imperial British East Africa Company

16.40 – 17.00: Closing Remarks and End of Conference


 

 

Navigation: An Even Shorter Introduction

A combination of historians, literary scholars, naval captains, archivists, curators, and even the odd former explorer, the Trustees of the Hakluyt Society collectively represent a wide range of expertise on travel and navigation. Yet few are as uniquely qualified to speak on the topic as Professor Jim Bennett, former Director of the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford and, since 2016, President of the Hakluyt Society. This year, his Navigation: A Very Short Introduction was published by Oxford University Press. In this blog, Professor Bennett reflects on the joys and challenges of discussing thousands of years of navigational development in a short book – or even a brief talk at a literary festival.

JB: My little book Navigation: A Very Short Introduction was published earlier this year and, as a more commercial work than my usual brief, I’ve had unfamiliar opportunities to speak at a few promotional events. I always accept, not because I imagine selling lots of books, but because it’s a nice experience that may never come again. So, I’m one of those speakers on the festival fringe, where the venue is a pub or bookshop, and a few people turn up because they want to fill their schedules and these tickets are free. Still, it’s fun – nice to feel part of the larger occasion and briefly to wear a badge marked Author.

But what to say? No-one really wants to understand position-line navigation, even if I could explain it in the time I have – perhaps as little as 20 minutes. I even did one so-called ‘speed dating’ event, where speakers circulated between groups with 10 minutes for each. These ‘VSIs’, as Authors learn to call their books, are, of course, heroic condensations in themselves – in my case of navigation at sea from the Bronze Age to post-GPS in 35,000 words – so how to distil that further into 20 minutes?

vsi cover

Navigation at sea is a very big story, spanning all historical epochs, cultures and oceans – a story of world history but told though a technical narrative. It was necessary to give some account of all the big players – from the Minoans in the Mediterranean, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, &c, sailing (usually) in a large but relatively enclosed sea, to the Pacific Islanders in the vast expanse of Oceania.

With my European history background, I was already comfortable with navigation in the Atlantic from the Norse to the Portuguese, Spanish, English and Dutch, with their introduction of techniques codified in mathematics and the use of instruments. But there was a great deal to say about the Indian Ocean with the overlapping and intersecting activities of the Egyptians, Arabs, Indians and Chinese – and eventually the Europeans. I also had to cover the growing convergence of technical resources into the modern age.

Cultural differences needed addressing as well as the geographical and technical. It struck me that Europeans marvelled at the navigational feats of Polynesian sailors, seeing their far-flung islands separated by great tracts of ocean, when Pacific peoples might insist that this is how they are connected.

Among the range of motivations for voyaging, I was pleased, for reasons that may be obvious when we meet, to devote a paragraph or two to the Irish of the early Middle Ages, who could represent an ascetic or devotional impulse. The plan was to settle in places where life would generally be considered impossible – with some success, before they were displaced from the Faroes and from Iceland by the very different strategy of the Vikings.

I should be careful not to mislead potential readers here. My narrative is driven by the technical development of navigation. I manage to mention Richard Hakluyt on page one, by using his Principal Navigations to illustrate the general meaning of ‘navigation’, in contrast with the technical definition of his associate, the mathematician John Dee, where it refers to the means of locating a position and setting a course. But the technical is entangled with geography, history and culture.

When OUP invited me to write the book, I thought I should explain frankly that I am a historian, not a navigator. They explained in turn that a historical account of this technical topic was what they wanted and this proved to be wise, I believe. I have to deal with technical matters, however superficially, but readers unfamiliar with the business of navigation pick this up gradually, through its evolution over time.

Experienced navigators, on the other hand, will not be satisfied with the technical content of so short a book, but they probably know little of how their discipline evolved and who was responsible for its development.

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Spanish mariner’s astrolabe, c.1600. Museum of the History of Science, Oxford.

If the subject is large, how am I to bring it within the compass of 20 minutes? One unifying notion I’ve been using is ‘the shared sky’. As I worked through how sailors in their different epochs, peoples and oceans dealt with the challenges of knowing where they were and of moving on towards their landfall, something that should have been obvious from the beginning dawned with increasing force. On the open sea, the sky was the same for everyone.

Different techniques were used to codify and utilise the sky, with different vocabularies and instruments (or with none), but the principles that everyone applied were broadly similar. They shared the same sky. Of course it looked different from different places and at different times – that was what gave the sky navigational purchase – but a grasp of the patterns and movements recurred within every formulation.

A further thought links us to all these different peoples and is the emotional hook I deploy to move my listeners to an empathy with my subject. We share this same sky. However remote we may seem from the Phoenicians or the Vikings, for direction and for what we call ‘latitude’ they used a ‘north star’, which they identified in the same whirling pattern as we observe today. I am always affected by this thought – a feeling perhaps shared by my modest audiences. They seem to leave happy to have ticked off another talk in the programme, some even with copies of my little book.

Professor Jim Bennett is a historian of science who has held curatorial posts in national museums in London and in university museums in Cambridge and Oxford, where he was Director of the Museum of the History of Science. He has been President of the British Society for the History of Science and is currently President of the Hakluyt Society. His books include The Divided Circle: a History of Instruments for Astronomy, Navigation, and Surveying (Phaidon-Christie’s: 1987) and Navigation: A Very Short History (Oxford University Press: 2017).


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Professor Jim Bennett waiting to speak at Chipping Norton Literary Festival

‘World enough, and time’: Richard Hakluyt and the Renaissance Discovery of the World

An important quadricentennial took place on 23 November 2016: the 400th anniversary of the death of Richard Hakluyt (1552-1616). To mark the occasion, an international group of scholars gathered in Oxford for a conference ‘Richard Hakluyt and the Renaissance Discovery of the World’. In this blog post, Hakluyt@400 organisers, Professors Daniel Carey and Claire Jowitt, once more reflect on the #Hakluyt400 quatercentenary activities in Oxford and Wetheringsett.


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England’s pioneering promoter of overseas exploration, commerce and expansion, Richard Hakluyt, assembled the largest selection of English travel accounts of the era, covering every area of activity around the globe. His book The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation is an astounding compilation of English voyages and discoveries up to his time and marks what we might call the beginnings of the great British historical adventure.

It first appeared in one large c.600,000-word volume in 1589, and then in a much-expanded and updated edition in three volumes between 1598 and 1600. The second edition extended to more than 1.76 million words, containing over 600 individual accounts of travel and exploration by various authors. Hakluyt divided the material into volumes by region, with each then ordered by chronology; its publication was by any reckoning, a truly immense literary and logistical achievement.

Many of the scholars who spoke at the conference are participants in a major international editorial endeavour to prepare the first-ever critical edition of the text, the Hakluyt Edition Project, led by Daniel Carey (NUI Galway) and Claire Jowitt (University of East Anglia), to be published in 14 volumes by Oxford University Press.

principal-navigations 1599

The conference was accompanied by two exhibitions: ‘Hakluyt and Geography in Oxford 1550-1650’ at his old college, Christ Church; and ‘The World in a Book: Hakluyt and Renaissance Discovery’ at the Bodleian Library. The programme as a whole, organised by Carey, Jowitt, and Anthony Payne (Hakluyt Society), involved a partnership between the Hakluyt Society, Christ Church, the Bodleian, and the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford.

The Hakluyt@400 events concluded on 27 November 2016 with the unveiling of a wall-plaque in Hakluyt’s honour at his final parish church of Wetheringsett, Suffolk—four hundred years and one day after his burial in Westminster Abbey.

Hakluyt plaque

The conference included sessions on themes such as ‘Hakluyt, Oxford, and Centres of Power’ that featured papers by David Harris Sacks, Anthony Payne, and Sebastian Sobecki. A similarly lively session on Hakluyt’s global perspectives in ‘the three corners of the world’ (a reference to Shakespeare’s line from King John) saw Nandini Das discuss ‘Hakluyt and India’, Felicity Stout focus on ‘Hakluyt and Russia’ and Bernhard Klein consider ‘Hakluyt and West Africa’. Taken together, the three papers revealed the transnational, international, and interconnected networks and dimensions of Hakluyt’s work.

Other sessions considered ‘Encounters, communication and technology’, ‘Theatres of war, near and far’, ‘Rival ambitions’, ‘Telling tales’, and ‘Influences and legacy’, and involved speakers representing an appropriately international group—given Hakluyt’s project—ranging from the UK to Ireland, the US, Australia, Canada, Spain, France, and the Netherlands.

The conference featured a keynote from the renowned historian Joyce E. Chaplin (Harvard) who offered an eco-critical reading of Hakluyt’s work, showing how nature was central to The Principal Navigations since God had made the world abundant and open for business (especially to the English). The conference ended with a very well-attended public lecture by historian and broadcaster Michael Wood. ‘Voyages, Traffiques, Discoveries: Stories from the Age of Exploration’, described cross-cultural encounters from Mexico and China and looked at what they tell us about Western ways of seeing the world beyond Europe and other cultures and civilisations—all still, as he put it, ‘burning issues in the 21st century’.

The range, depth, and diversity of the scholarship on display across all sessions was impressive (and gratifying to the organisers), a testament to the continued importance of studying colonial pasts in order to understand, and contribute to, post-colonial futures.

This conference and the commemoration of Hakluyt in 2016 more broadly, provided an opportunity to appreciate fully Hakluyt’s influence and legacy. By offering advice on English colonial and imperial projects to the most powerful figures in the land, including Elizabeth I and James I, and career politicians such as William Cecil, Lord Burleigh, and his son Robert, Hakluyt established himself as one of the chief architects of what was to become a global, oceanic, and mercantile British empire.

Likewise, the series of events enabled us to better understand the ways in which the genre of the travel writing collection, which Hakluyt pioneered in England, was crucial to creating a climate that supported English ambitions for exploration, trade, and expansion. Hakluyt’s editorial labours were thus foundational in developing for the English nation a central role in a global economy.

Readers interested in Hakluyt’s legacy, through the work of the Hakluyt Society (established 1846), can find out further information about activities and publications at: http://www.hakluyt.com/. Further details about the project to publish a scholarly edition of The Principal Navigations can be found at: http://www.hakluyt.org.

NOTE: This report first appeared in the Bulletin of the Society for Renaissance Studies, April 2017. SRS supported the attendance of ten postgraduate and early career scholars at the conference through fee-waiver bursaries. Reproduced with permission of the Society.